Yoni Applebaum, in an old comment at TNC’s blog, via TNC
We are… well past the age of the polymath and into the era of the sub-specialist.
The trouble with the Cliff’s Notes approach is that it rests upon the fallacy that a superficial acquaintance with the evidence can aid you in making an independent judgment of its meaning. In high school, it may have enabled you to fool an English teacher into believing that you really understood Mr. Rochester, when you never cracked the spine of the book. But in life, you’re only fooling yourself.
So here’s my advice. Choose the things about which you genuinely care, and come to know them deeply and well. Form your own judgments, and constantly question them. In other matters, attempt instead to ascertain the consensus of expert judgment. It will be right far more often than not. The only alternative is to form your own judgment upon every question, and I can assure you that you will be correct far less frequently.
If you encounter an attack upon a conventional piety that troubles you, first assess its source. Has its author taken the time or trouble to know his subject deeply or well? Then, assess its content. Does it seem sophisticated and convincing? If it meets those two tests, ask yourself how much you care to know about the matter. You can always add it to the list of things you wish to know deeply. But if you feel that you simply don’t have the time, because of the realities of your life, then bracket your concerns and set them aside. The regnant consensus will do.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.St. John Chrysostom (via Carrie Frederick Frost on Twitter)
If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.
If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.
If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.
If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.
For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.
Mark Galli, “Rob Bell’s ‘Ginormous’ Mirror.” This is an excellent piece.
Instead of a life of experience, Christ calls us to a life of love. And a life of love for the most part means attending to the tedious details of others’ lives, and serving them in sacrificial ways that most days feels, well, not exciting at all. Rather than sweeping the kitchen, cleaning the toilet, listening to the talkative and boring neighbor, slopping eggs onto a plate at the homeless shelter, or crunching numbers for another eight hours at the office—surely life is meant for more than this. We are tempted to wonder, Is that all there is to the “abundant” Christian life? Shouldn’t my life be more adventurous if God is in me and all around me? How am I going to be all I’m supposed to be if I have to empty bedpans in Peoria? I would just die if I had to do that.
Yes, you would. Jesus called it dying to self. Love is precisely denying the self that wants to glory in experience. The cost of discipleship most of us are asked to pay is to live the life God has given us, serving in mundane ways the people he has put in our path. To be free from the self and to discover such love is the essence of abundant life.
As Paul put it, in the final analysis love is not about speaking in tongues, having prophetic powers, understanding all mysteries or knowledge, having experiences of wonder, or being all we can be. Love instead “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). Yes, endures. It endures now because it hopes. And it hopes because it has not yet been given in full what is promised, but only glimpses here and there, mere appetizers to the great kingdom feast.
It is not hard to see why the religion of experience—the experience that Rob Bell is now writing about—tempts one to make feeling an idol, or how a religion of feeling leads to the watering down of great gospel themes. Historians of theology have shown such connections time and again. What’s hard to understand is why so many Christians who claim they stand for the faith once delivered to the saints don’t see that the road of experience leads nowhere except to the barren desert of the self.
I say moon is horses in the tempered dark,
because horse is the closest I can get to it.
I sit on the terrace of this worn villa the king’s
telegrapher built on the mountain that looks down
on a blue sea and the small white ferry
that crosses slowly to the next island each noon.
Michiko is dying in the house behind me,
the long windows open so I can hear
the faint sound she will make when she wants
watermelon to suck or so I can take her
to a bucket in the corner of the high-ceilinged room
which is the best we can do for a chamber pot.
She will lean against my leg as she sits
so as not to fall over in her weakness.
How strange and fine to get so near to it.
The arches of her feet are like voices
of children calling in the grove of lemon trees,
where my heart is as helpless as crushed birds.
During his lifetime and after, Hammarskjold was widely assumed to be homosexual and these rumours were eagerly encouraged by those who wished – in an unquestioningly homophobic era – to undermine his moral credibility. Roger Lipsey devotes one chapter to this, which is a model of sobriety: no speculation, no claims to sensational new information, simply a careful setting out of what little evidence there is one way or another. His conclusion is that Hammarskjold might have been homosexual; but on the facts presented here, the only real supporting evidence would be that he never married, which doesn’t get us very far. There is no trace of either heterosexual or homosexual affairs. Lipsey notes briefly the surprising closeness that developed between Hammarskjold and the sculptor Barbara Hepworth (whose wonderful and iconic monument to him, Single Form, now stands outside the UN headquarters in New York), and comments perceptively, “It was probably better than a romance: it was sincere love and care, seeing with the same eyes”. We have to face the possibility that Hammarskjold was that most alarming of sexual deviants in twenty-first century eyes, a willing and self-aware celibate.Rowan Williams, “A Review of Hammarskjold: A Life by Roger Lipsay (University of Michigan Press, 2013)” The Cambridge Humanities Review (Lent Term, 2013). (via withruemyheartisladen)
To paraphrase Douglass, a writer is worked on by what she works on. If you spend your time raging at the weakest arguments, or your most hysterical opponents, expect your own intellect to suffer. The intellect is a muscle; it must be exercised. There are cases in which people of great influence say stupid things and thus must be taken on. (See Chait on George Will’s disgraceful lying about climate change.) But you should keep your feuds with Michelle Malkin to a minimum.
In the interest of exercising that intellect, I would add something else: Write about something other than current politics. Do not limit yourself to fighting with people who are alive. Fight with some of the intellectual greats. Fight with historians, scientists, and academics. And then after you fight with them, have the decency to admit when they’ve kicked your ass. Do not use your platform to act like they didn’t. Getting your ass kicked is an essential part of growing your intellectual muscle.
To do all of that, you have to actually be curious. You have to not just want to be heard, but want to listen. Brooks makes the point that the detached writer’s role should be “more like teaching than activism.” I would say that it should be more like learning than teaching. The stuff you put on the page should be the byproduct of all you are taking in — and that taking in should not end after you get a degree from a selective university. Keep going. You must keep going.
On a parking-lot staircase
I met two fine-looking men
descending, both in slacks
and dress shirts, neckties
much alike, one of the men
in his sixties, the other
a good twenty years older,
unsteady in his polished shoes,
a son and his father, I knew
from their looks, the son with his
right hand on the handrail,
the father, left hand on the left,
and in the middle they were
holding hands, and when I neared,
they opened the simple gate
of their interwoven fingers
to let me pass, then reached out
for each other and continued on.
If the Church was faithful to its mission towards gay people, the idea of Christianity as homophobic would not just seem wrong, it would be a punchline. It would be like saying the Red Cross secretly infects people with polio, or something. People wouldn’t even debate it, they would scoff. And a strongly-worded blog post isn’t going to make that happen.
Yes, we need to improve our language, but that’s not the challenge, or it’s only one peripheral consequence of the challenge. The challenge is to make it dead-obvious to the entire world that any gay person will be embraced and affirmed in any church, in any family, in any community. And yes, in this day and age, that includes “Side A” gay Christians, which doesn’t mean jettisoning orthodox Christian teaching, because hey, we’re all sinners, and we’re all wrong about something. (I uncomfortably straddle “Side A” and “Side B” teachings, since I am bound to affirm the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on the morality of gay sex, yet support legal civil same-sex marriage.)
That’s the challenge, that’s the real challenge, and if it’s not obvious, it’s a tremendous challenge. Let’s get started.
“If genuine sharing involves a certain element of sacrifice, of giving something up, it also entails an acknowledgment of limits. Not everything can be shared. This is the lesson of the fable of St. Martin who cut his coat in half to give to a beggar. If we shared everything, we would have nothing left to share. Oversharing only exists as a problem if we spend too little time cultivating something of our own. What I do not share or cannot share is truly who I am. More time thinking about and designing for our unshareables, all those aspects of our mental and emotional lives that are inalienable, will serve as an important antidote to the perceived oversharing of social media today. As the contemporary artist Aram Bartholl has shown, it means imagining more of what he calls ‘dead drops,’ spaces where information does not go anywhere, in this case memory sticks imbedded in the walls of cities throughout the world…. Bartholl’s work is a moving digital version of the ancient practice of whispering secrets into the hollows of trees.”
— Andrew Piper, Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times
Negative chastity, the kind of chastity that limits itself to saying “Thou shalt not,” has consistently failed to persuade the postmodern world because it is madness. The vast majority of people will eat things that are designated “unclean” by their religion or “unhealthy” by their doctors when faced with starvation. In most cases it’s not even voluntary. Unless you have strengthened your will to a superhuman extent it’s not possible to starve yourself to death.Melinda Selmys. Read the whole thing.
Phil Earle: Where I write (via ayjay)
My writing space has no desk or shelves. There’s no space for books, whether for reference or simply to distract me from the looming deadline in hand. There aren’t even any walls or space to pin up images as inspiration.
What my writing space does have though, is windows. Loads of them. 360 degree windows - Imax strength.
What makes these windows even more special is the fact that the view through them changes every second: one minute it’s the electric buzz of Elephant and Castle, the next time I look up, I’m in the shadows of the glorious South Bank and Big Ben.
You see, Heroic, and Saving Daisy before it, were written entirely on the X68 bus: the glorious red chariot that shepherds me to and from work. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Christ’s love for Peter was boundless in this way: in loving Peter he accomplished loving the person one sees. He did not say, “Peter must change and become another person before I can love him again.” No, he said exactly the opposite, “Peter is Peter, and I love him. My love, if anything, will help him to become another person.” Therefore he did not break off the friendship in order perhaps to renew it if Peter would have become another person; no, he preserved the friendship unchanged and in that way helped Peter to become another person. Do you think that Peter would have been won again without Christ’s faithful friendship? But it is so easy to be a friend when this means nothing else than to request something in particular from the friend and, if the friend does not respond to the request, then to let the friendship cease, until it perhaps begins again if he responds to the request. Is this a relationship of friendship? Who is closer to helping an erring one than the person who calls himself his friend, even if the offense is committed against the friend! But the friend withdraws and says (indeed, it is as if a third person were speaking): When he has become another person, then perhaps he can become my friend again. But truly we are far from being able to say of such a friend that in loving he loves the person he sees.Kierkegaard (via Christopher Benson)
This is my commonplace book and sometime-journal.
I blog at SpiritualFriendship.org.
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My book is here: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.
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